#NIDAVELLIR #SVARTALFHEIM NIDAVELLIR/SVARTALFHEIM In Old Norse literature, the home of thedwarves is called either Nidavellir (pronounced “NID-uh-vell-eer;” Old Norse Niðavellir, “Low Fields” or “Dark Fields”) or Svartalfheim (pronounced “SVART-alf-hame;” Old NorseSvartálfaheimr, “Homeland of the Black Elves”). The dwarves are master smiths and craftsmen who live beneath the ground. Accordingly, Nidavellir or Svartalfheim was probably thought of as a labyrinthine, subterranean complex of mines and forges.
If either of these names is the “original” one – the name that the Vikings used to refer to the dwarves’ homeland – it’s probably Nidavellir. While both names occur only in relatively late and problematic sources, the first source to use the term “Nidavellir” (the poemVöluspá, “The Prophecy of the Seeress”) is older than the first (and only) source to use the term “Svartalfheim” (Snorri Sturluson’s Prose Edda). The Völuspá has this (and only this) to say about Nidavellir:
There stood in the north
The golden hall
Of Sindri’s family.
The directions “north” and “downward” were commonly associated with each other in Old Norse literature, and master craftsmen renowned for their work with precious metals would naturally build exquisite halls for themselves, so this description is probably based on authentic material from the Viking Age. (Sindri is a dwarf mentioned elsewhere in Old Norse literature.) Snorri’s descriptions of Svartalfheim, however, are much more confused. For one thing, he – and only he – calls the dwarves “black elves” (svartálfar ordøkkálfar). While the boundaries between the different kinds of demigod-like beings were quite blurry in the Viking Age, Snorri’s terminology just introduces an additional and unnecessary layer of complication. The name “Svartalfheim” is an extension of his invented terminology.